Aphthous Stomatitis

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is aphthous stomatitis?

Aphthous stomatitis is a common disease characterized by the repeated formation of benign and non-contagious mouth ulcers (aphthae) in otherwise healthy individuals. The common term, canker sores, is also used, mainly in North America, although this may also refer to any mouth ulcer.

The cause is not completely understood, but involves a T cell-mediated immune response triggered by a variety of factors. Different people have various different triggers, which may include nutritional deficiencies, local trauma, stress, hormonal influences, allergies, genetic predisposition or many other factors.

How common is aphthous stomatitis?

Recurrent aphthous stomatitis is the most common oral lesions found in humans. They may occur anywhere but are most frequently found on the buccal and gingival mucosa or adjacent tongue surfaces. It has a frequency rate of 25% and a 3-month recurrence rate as high as 50%.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of aphthous stomatitis?

Most aphthous stomatitis has round or oval shape with a white or yellow center and a red in border. They form inside your mouth — on or under your tongue, inside your cheeks or lips, at the base of your gums, or on your soft palate. It is noticeable that you might have a tingling or burning sensation a day or two before the sores actually appear. And there are 3 main types of aphthous stomatitis, including minor, major and herpetiform sores.

Minor aphthous stomatitis

Minor aphthous stomatitis is the most common and:

  • Are usually small
  • Are oval shaped with a red edge
  • Heal without scarring in one to two weeks

Major aphthous stomatitis

Major aphthous stomatitis is less common and:

  • Are larger and deeper than minor aphthous stomatitis
  • Are usually round with defined borders, but may have irregular edges when very large
  • Can be very painful
  • May take up to six weeks to heal and can leave extensive scarring

Herpetiform aphthous stomatitis

Herpetiform aphthous stomatitis is not as popular as the others and usually develops later in life, but they are not caused by herpes virus infection. The characteristics of these aphthous stomatitis:

  • Are pinpoint size
  • Often occur in clusters of 10 to 100 sores, but may merge into one large ulcer
  • Have irregular edges
  • Heal without scarring in one to two weeks

When should I see my doctor?

Early diagnosis and treatment can stop this condition from worsening and prevent another medical emergency, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible to prevent this serious condition.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes aphthous stomatitis?

Your risk for developing aphthous stomatitis increases if you have a family history of aphthous stomatitis. Aphthous stomatitis has various causes, and the most popular causes include:

  • Viral infection
  • Stress
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Food allergy
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency
  • Immune system problem
  • Mouth injury
  • A deficiency in certain vitamins, such as B-3 (niacin), B-9 (folic acid), or B-12 (cobalamin), can make you more prone to getting aphthous stomatitis. Zinc, iron, or calcium deficiencies can also trigger or worsen aphthous stomatitis.

In some cases, the cause of a aphthous stomatitis can’t be determined clearly.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for aphthous stomatitis?

Anyone can get aphthous stomatitis. But they occur more often in teens and young adults, and they are more common in females than males.

Often people with recurrent aphthous stomatitis have a family history of the disorder. This may be due to heredity or to a shared factor in the environment, such as certain foods or allergens.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.


How is aphthous stomatitis diagnosed?

By checking over it, your doctor can diagnose an aphthous stomatitis. They may also order blood tests or take a biopsy of the area if there is a severe breakout or if they suspect that you might experience:

  • A virus
  • A vitamin or mineral deficiency
  • A hormonal disorder
  • A problem with your immune system
  • A severe breakout

A cancerous lesion may appear as an aphthous stomatitis, but it won’t heal without treatment. Some symptoms of oral cancer are similar to those of aphthous stomatitis, like painful ulcers and swelling in your neck. But oral cancer is often indicated by unique symptoms, including:

  • Bleeding from the mouth or gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Earaches

How is aphthous stomatitis treated?    

Treatment usually isn’t necessary for minor aphthous stomatitis, which tends to clear on their own in a week or two. But large, persistent or unusually painful sores often need medical care. A number of treatment options exist.

  • Mouth rinses: A mouth rinse containing the steroid dexamethasone to reduce pain and inflammation or lidocaine to reduce pain.
  • Oral medications: Oral medications may be used when aphthous stomatitis is severe or do not respond to topical treatments.
  • Cautery of sores: During cautery, an instrument or chemical substance is used to burn, sear or destroy tissue.
  • Nutritional supplements: Your doctor may prescribe a nutritional supplement if you consume low amounts of important nutrients, such as folate (folic acid), vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 or zinc.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage aphthous stomatitis?

It is considered that there are some home remedies to prevent this condition.

  • Rinse your mouth.
  • Use salt water or baking soda rinse (dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1/2 cup warm water).
  • Dab a small amount of milk of magnesia on your aphthous stomatitis a few times a day.
  • Avoid abrasive, acidic or spicy foods that can cause further irritation and pain.
  • Apply ice to your aphthous stomatitis by allowing ice chips to slowly dissolve over the sores.
  • Brush your teeth gently.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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